Supporting students who choose to #ClimateStrike – Part 1

Safety First

I recently posted what was probably my most widely viewed tweet ever. I was contemplating the impact of Greta Thunberg, a youth climate activist from Sweden. In considering how I will support any student of mine who chooses to join Greta’s weekly climate strike, I added a number of links to New Zealand’s curriculum. I was really just putting my own thinking out in front of me, but as over 8,00o people have viewed that tweet, presumably mostly teachers, I may have been meeting a need. I have decided to do a bit more thinking about youth activism and climate strikes, and share it in a series of blog posts. I begin below. 

Climate action photograph by niekverlaan via Pixabay.

Climate action photograph by niekverlaan via Pixabay.

The enthusiasm of youth is compelling and beautiful. If we teach teenagers, this electrifying enthusiasm probably plays a big part in why we continue to teach. Seeing it in action is one of the rewards of our job, and it often works its magic on us whether it is about our lessons or not. We know, therefore, that many students who choose to take part in a climate strike will be deeply committed to the cause. This commitment will power the success of those who capture the spotlight or sense that they are making a difference. However, combined with the adolescent personal fable, this same commitment and enthusiasm may lead some of our students into harm’s way. If we choose to support students’ climate strikes with relevant learning opportunities when they are at school, let’s send them on that journey forewarned and somewhat equipped.

Our students have a right to know that change agents and people who call the powerful to account are taking a risk. New Zealand teachers will be familiar with this proverb:

Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe me he maunga teitei.
Seek the treasure you value most dearly: if you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain.

The kids need to know that the mountain of authority faced by change-makers is not necessarily a small one, but that some knowledge and strategy can help them to manage risks.

The risk of arrest

There is likely to be someone in your school community who has been arrested, or who thought they were about to be arrested, while protesting. It may even be a teacher. Try to arrange to have that person speak to the school at assembly, or to the class, especially if numbers of students are likely to protest. I teach online, so I would probably have an organiser from a group which stages a lot of protests to join us in a chatroom to talk about protestors rights and what happens when they get arrested. Here is what I would want students to find out:

  • If I choose to join in public protest action, what are my rights?
  • How can I stay safe?
  • How do police respond to protest actions?
  • Are some forms of protest action safer than others?
  • Is ethnicity or youth a risk magnifier when protesting?
  • Why do some activist groups stay within the law while others seek arrest as a publicity measure? How do they decide which is best?
  • Do activists who get arrested regret it? How would arrest impact on my family, my well-being and my future?

The social studies curriculum offers inquiry questions which can also contribute to our understanding of why some activists choose to risk arrest.

Using a social inquiry approach, students:

  • ask questions, gather information and background ideas, and examine relevant current issues
  • explore and analyse people’s values and perspectives
  • consider the ways in which people make decisions and participate in social action
  • reflect on and evaluate the understandings they have developed and the responses that may be required.

Exploring historical and contemporary figures who were arrested in the course of their activism may be interesting for some students. Examples include:

  • Te Whiti-o-Rongomai and many of his followers at Parihaka. (Be careful to recommend age-appropriate resources due to the nature of the Parihaka atrocities, and consider providing tissues. Tears are an appropriate response to the Parihaka tragedy.)
  • Strikers and those who fed them or their families during the 1951 waterfront dispute.
  • Bastion Point protestors.
  • Greenpeace protestors including Russel Norman and Sara Howell.

Physical risks

Yes. I am that kind of teacher. I have a friend whose arm was broken by police while protesting. I know all the right people!

Clearly, the police don’t usually break people’s arms, and they do have knowledge of first aid. However, I think it is wise to encourage students who go on climate strikes to explore conflict escalation and de-escalation, learn first aid, and do mundane things like carrying a water bottle and wearing sunscreen. Show them your RAMS forms and speak honestly about how risk management is not usually fun, but it is usually helpful. Make links with the safety management objectives in the health and physical education curriculum.

Financial risks

If students choose to participate in collective rather than individual climate action, they may be asked for financial contributions by the groups organising events. For some of the families I teach, donating would mean going without food. The section on spending within financial capability offers a curricular context for exploring priorities with money. If you are part of the Sorted in Schools pilot, you will have access to relevant resources.

Staying safe online

Many students will consider building a social media campaign as part of their personal climate activism platform. They should be aware that they need to be 13 years old to legally hold most social media accounts. They need to consider how they will handle trolls and cyberbullies. Students should also consider what kind of digital footprint they are creating, and to what extent it is safe for them to reveal their real name and their present and future locations online.

Falling behind academically

A student who really understands the true extent of climate threat is going to be worried. This worry will hold them back in their studies if they have no way to act on it. This is reason enough, all on its own, for teachers to support students in going on climate strike. However, in any areas of curricular weakness, students should have a plan to keep up, and teachers who care should have a plan to help them. Put your homework and your lesson plans somewhere online where kids can access them. Remind anyone who is absent, for any reason, that this resource exists.

Absence policies

I see this as another risk for teachers to help manage. Most students on climate strike around the world are absent from school each Friday. If your school has an absence policy which means that a weekly absence will cause difficulties for a student who is genuinely on climate strike, such as requiring attendance during the school holidays to make up for lost tuition, there are two ways around this if your principal is on board. If enough students are striking, and enough learning is connected with activism, the climate strike could become a school trip. Alternatively, the principal’s right to exempt attendance could be invoked to cover some of the days. These options do detract from the strike-i-ness of the protest, but they still provide students with an opportunity to put their message to the public.

This has been a long post, but it has been a good place for me to collect my thoughts. I hope it helps you and your students, too. I will look at what student climate strikers can learn from role models in my next post.

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The Gifted Qualification Outside the Gifted Classroom

ToStudyOrNotToStudy

Many teachers consider studying gifted education, but have niggling doubts, asking themselves, “Shouldn’t I take a paper which will benefit the whole class?”

After ten years in gifted education, I am now focussing on my other specialty which is distance education. Some of my students are gifted. Most are not. Below are just a few of the ways in which the things I have learnt through studying gifted education help me with every child. While every teacher will have some of these tools at their disposal, training in gifted education will help to develop each of them further.

  • I have learnt to appreciate the importance of individualised challenge, and seeking challenge which feels like a good fit is resonating with many of my learners, including those “well below” in terms of national standards.
  • I aim for successful learning to be its own reward, and am very happy to hear things like, “He doesn’t seem to care about the certificates he has earned. He is just so excited that he can see how much he is learning,” from a parent.
  • I recognise the tension between attainment and fulfillment. I encourage personal interest projects which align with students’ own values and goals, and make the curriculum fit these projects rather than working the other way around.
  • I have a broadened toolkit of strategies which promote engagement, and I use them every day.
  • I respect the interplay of underpinning knowledge and complex thinking, and this helps me to choose the best building block for a learner’s understanding at a given point in time.
  • All that pre-testing and curriculum compacting turns out to be a powerful tool for helping kids who are behind to gain ground efficiently. I think I could talk effect sizes with John Hattie and hold my own!
  • Gifted learners tend to be critical thinkers who can be relied upon to teach teachers about the value of student feedback, whether the teachers looked for it initially or not. I now seek out feedback, from as many students as possible, and this helps me to teach to each learner’s needs.

I studied gifted education at Massey University in New Zealand, and I have a strong preference for university study over other qualifications because of the breadth of resources available, especially through research databases. I also favour courses which explore many models and many viewpoints in this complex field. I believe a wide range of ways of thinking about learners and learning equips us best to help the diverse group of learners we will encounter in our work.

Image Credit: “Graduated”, by Roel Wijnants, CC-BY-NC.

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The wildest winds

My guest blogger, Imogen, is a student of Gifted Online. She has contributed a poem which exudes the confidence and resilience we want for all of the children we teach. Thank you, Imogen!

The wildest winds

The wildest winds
Twist my hair up
Like a tornado
Above my head
And let it fall
Loosely down again.

The wildest winds
Blow my dress
Out to the sides,
But nothing
Can blow me off my feet.

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Gifted Education in Early Childhood in New Zealand – A Literature Review

Joanna McGibbon St George has contributed her recent review of the literature on gifted education in early childhood to the blog tour. Thank you, Jo.

Sunnies

Introduction
Is gifted education in the New Zealand early childhood sector one aspect that is more often than not overlooked? (Walsh, Hodge, Bowes & Kemp, 2010). Is the curriculum designed to support all learners within early childhood programmes? The results of Margrain and Farquhar’s survey (2012) show that it could possibly be failing gifted children under the age of 8.

Considering the rate of brain development and growth, especially between 0 – 5, “Is viewed as crucial in the development intellect, self esteem and social functioning, it is perplexing that so little attention has been paid to the needs of young gifted children” Shore cited in (Walsh, Hodge, Bowes & Kemp, 2010, p. 44). Though educators working within the curriculum provide a wide range of activities and experiences for all children in their care to wonder over and explore, surely this includes gifted children (Margrain, & Farquhar, 2012).

Definition of Giftedness
There seems to be no clear definition for gifted young children (Margrain & Farquhar, 2102). Others disagree suggesting that there are
many definitions of giftedness, but with such variety of ideas lack of clarity gives rise to confusion (Walsh, Hodge, Bowes & Kemp, 2010). One such example is, “The term giftedness refers to spontaneous untrained abilities (potential) that place the individual in the top 10% of same-age peers in that particular domain” Gagné cited in (Walsh, Hodge, Bowes & Kemp, 2010, p. 44).

Though there may be a certain amount of confusion in regards to a clear definition, there are certain characteristics that are more prevalent with young gifted children. Speech develops from a very early age, and a good grasp of language comprehension follows, and children are able to hold fairly in depth conversations with adults. Along with this it is not unusual for these children to be reading by age four (McGee & Hughes, 2011).

Challenges and Misunderstandings
Along with these characteristics, certain challenges appear, for instance a young child’s mental abilities do not develop at the same rate as their emotional capabilities. “Young children with advanced concepts and skills may develop emotional issues, such as fears, emotional sensitivities to others, perfectionism, early awareness of their own emotional and intellectual states, self-esteem issues, and behavioural nonconformity” Porter, cited in (McGee & Hughes, 2011, p. 101). Anger and frustration may arise from the child when their intellectual needs are not met, causing the misunderstanding that they may have behavioural issues (Walsh, Hodge, Bowes & Kemp, 2010).

Tensions do arise over the push to either place gifted children into primary school early, or to keep them in an early childhood environment. If children’s emotional maturity does not match their intellectual ability, then placing them in primary will likely lead to more of a deficit in that area. Those pro say that if children are encouraged to develop at their own pace, then surely early school attendance will benefit gifted children, and reduce any signs of frustration (Margrain & Farquhar, 2012).

Educators Role
Educators can play a part in identifying gifted children through using the everyday tools at their disposal. Such as informal anecdotal observations (Margrain & Farquhar, 2012), and also through learning stories, which are “Learner centered, credit based, and illustrates learning and achievement within authentic contexts” Moore, Molloy, Morton & Davis, cited in (Margrain, 2011, p. 8).

Educators need to extend their knowledge on gifted children, and develop an awareness of their characteristics (McGee & Hughes, 2011). In recognising these characteristics, teamed with an educator who is confident working with gifted children, these children will develop and thrive within that environment (Bevan-Brown, 2012).

Educators may discover some tension around the provision of a free play, emergent curriculum, and the provision of activities for gifted children that are more formal and school like, within the early childhood classroom (Walsh, Hodge, Bowes & Kemp, 2010).

Maori Children and Gifted Education
“The continued under representation of Maori students in gifted and talented programmes indicates the need to ensure our understandings about the way children learn, and the corresponding curriculum content, reflect Maori conceptions, values and practices” (Webber, 2006, p. 2). Not all abilities that Maori people value as gifting perfectly line up with western ideas, but these gifts need to be identified and nurtured in such a way that culture is part and parcel of the gifted child’s development (Bevan-Brown, 2012). Maori children’s cultural background, is established with deep roots that delve right back into the history of their whanau, hapu and iwi. When this background is acknowledged by educators, the child then has a solid place start to understand what giftedness means to his culture, therefore allowing him to take pride in his achievements, and continue to grow and develop holistically. A classroom that provides learning opportunities that are closely entwined to a child’s whakapapa as possible, will be one where gifted Maori children will shine (Webber, 2006).

Working With Parents and Whanau
Educators need to build positive reciprocal relationships with parents, and taking into account what parents are saying regarding their gifted child (Bevan-Brown, 2012). Parents understand their child better than others and have a great well of information at their disposal, and can share examples from home (Walsh, Hodge, Bowes & Kemp, 2010).

“However, teachers and families need to collaborate to identify such children and create supportive educational environments” (McGee & Hughes, 2011, p. 100).

Parents and whanau may feel they have no support, that teachers are not hearing them, that in fact educators came across as disinterested and unbelieving. Parents of 4 ½ year olds whose children have advanced reading ages, have reported little or no support from their child’s teacher, and found it a fight to be heard (Margrain, 2011).

Conclusion
Literature has shown differences of opinions in regards to the definition of giftedness, but concurs that gifted abilities do arise in young children. Also, educators have differing viewpoints in regards to gifted education within early childhood education. Some are proactive in working with parents, and others pull back in disbelief (Margrain, 2011).

New Zealand has much to celebrate regarding gifted education, but the caution comes “We cannot rest on our laurels and must continually strive to improve the situation for gifted and talented learners in NZ, their parents, family and whanau” (Bevan-Brown, 2012, p. 2).

Reference List
Bevan-Brown, J.(2012). Digging deeper, flying higher. Apex: The New Zealand Journal of Gifted Education 17(1). Retrieved September 27th, 2014, from www.giftedchildren.org.nz/apex

Margrain, V. (2011). Assessment for learning with young gifted children. Apex: The New Zealand Journal of Gifted Education 17(1). Retrieved September 27th, 2014, from www.giftedchildren.org.nz/apex

Margrain, V., & Farquhar, S. (2012). The education of gifted children in the early years: A first survey of views, teaching practices, resourcing and administration issues. Apex: The New Zealand Journal of Gifted Education 17(1). Retrieved September 27th, 2014, from www.giftedchildren.org.nz/apex

McGee, C. D., & Hughes, C. E. (2011). Identifying and supporting young gifted learners. Young Children, 66(4), pp, 100 – 105.

Webber, M. (2006). Identity and Whakapapa: A curriculum for the gifted Maori child. Retrieved October 14th, 2014, from http://www.confer.co.nz/gnt/Thursday/webber.pdf

Walsh, L. R., Hodge, K. A., Bowes, J. M., & Kemp, C. R. (2010). Same age different page: Overcoming the barriers to catering for young gifted children in prior-to-school settings. International Journal of Early Childhood, 4(1), pp, 43-58.

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Belonging and Gifted Children

This post is by guest blogger Rebecca Howell for the UK, whose past posts for the #NZGAW bog tour have been among our most widely read. Thank you for supporting our blog tour again, Rebecca.

Belong2
The desire for humans to belong is said to be such a fundamental human motivation that there are severe emotional consequences of not belonging (Baumeister and Leary 1995). The need to belong is a basic human need, something we need for survival as much as food, warmth and shelter. If our basic needs are threatened we react with the biological systems of fight, flight and playing dead. This applies to belonging and our need to protect it as much as our other basic needs, and our physiological responses are accompanied by the emotional responses of anger (fight), anxiety (flight) and depression (playing dead).

‘Belonging’ means that we feel that we play an active part in the communities we encounter; our families, our schools and our workplaces. Playing an active part in our communities means feeling that we are of value to community and have self-worth.

When we sense a threat to our belonging or self-worth, we respond biologically. Whether we respond with anger, anxiety or depression depends on many things but we experience at least one of those feelings. These feelings are there to force us into action, so we feel compelled to get rid of the feelings through attacking (if angry), running away or withdrawing (if experiencing anxiety) or shutting down emotions (if playing dead).

However, we also know that there are long-term consequences to short-term behaviours, both generally and in protecting our belonging and self-worth, so we can choose to rationalise these feelings. When children have these strong feelings they are less able to rationalise them or see the long-term consequences of their actions.

Gifted children often suffer from a lack of understanding for them and their situation. A gifted child who is misunderstood by parents, teachers or peers is likely to feel as if they don’t belong and their self-worth will be challenged. This will be a threat to their basic need and they will experience anger, anxiety or depression. These feelings may, if they cannot yet rationalise them, result in inappropriate behaviour attempting to protect this need.

When teachers don’t get the measure of gifted children, when the tendency towards rules and justice is cast aside, when actions are misunderstood, gifted children’s sense of belonging and self-worth are threatened.

When gifted children don’t have access to the appropriate level of challenge, when they are routinely made to sit through basic work they already know, when the questions they ask to further their understanding are brushed aside, gifted children’s sense of belonging and self-worth is threatened.

When parents misunderstand gifted children’s sensory signals, when they aren’t consistent or fair in their discipline, when they hold their children back from accessing the learning they need, gifted children’s sense of belonging and self-worth is threatened.

When gifted children’s peers don’t accommodate their differences, when they leave them out of games or taunt and tease them, gifted children’s sense of belonging and self-worth is threatened.

These examples show that damage to many gifted children’s sense of belonging and self-worth happens frequently. Parents, teachers and other professionals need to make sure that environments are best-placed to avoid threats to their sense of belonging and self-worth by:

  • Ensuring gifted children’s individual needs are recognised and communicated
  • Recognising and supporting the individual characteristics of gifted children
  • Making sure discipline is fair, consistent and with precedent (part of the school/home rules)
  • Understanding that strong emotions sometimes lead to strong actions
  • Providing the appropriate level of challenge so gifted children can build learning skills and resilience
  • Ensuring the environments gifted children are in are accepting of differences
  • Helping gifted children to build friendships and tackling any bullying behaviour.

#NZGAW Blog TourImage Credit: Mary St George.

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The Restraints of Being Gifted

Our guest blogger this evening is a student called Lily, who has also written for Gifted Awareness Week on previous occasions. Thanks, Lily!

CageOfBoredomOften gifted children have little opportunity to learn and expand knowledge. Teachers assume that we’re okay, because we aren’t struggling. They tend to focus on the children who are below level and having difficulties in learning and forget that we, in actual fact, are struggling, but in a different way to the people who are struggling to keep up. We are struggling to find new things to learn and to keep our minds active.

We try to learn through reading but often the higher-level material is inappropriate and our parents ban us from reading it. We try to challenge ourselves but often fail to find a good way to do so.

I am lucky because I have found GO Storymakers, a writing program for creative young students. Weekly, we chat on Skype to each other and our wonderful teacher Mary helps us find ways to challenge ourselves; to challenge our ideas, our perspective, and our writing. Not only does this give us a chance to learn from each other, but we can socialise with like-minded students!

It makes me quite disheartened to know that not all kids like me have such a wonderful opportunity. Some of them are left at school wasting their time on pointless tasks that require little effort. These activities generally don’t add to their knowledge or quench their thirst to learn. Some of their parents don’t even realise that they are so bright; they are often mistaken for below-level students because they are bored at school and slack off.

Sometimes I myself feel like I am trapped in a cage of boredom, but I have found some ways out of it. Gifted children usually have interesting passions and skills that they could be showing other students at their school. I am fortunate enough to have a great teacher who is very flexible and only wants the best for her students. After asking her if I could make a class movie, she agreed and gave me some guidelines on how to start. The rest was up to me!

This project gave me something to look forward to and it was a way to encourage me to go to school. Of course before the project started I was still quite happy to go to school in the chance that I might learn something and I could still talk to my friends at recess and lunch. Not only did this project improve my school life, but also made others’ better. They would come up to me every day and ask, “Can we do the movie today?” If the answer was yes, their face would light up and they would be excited, if not they would be a little annoyed but I would always reassure them, “Maybe tomorrow!”

This year is my last in primary school, and I think going into high school might present me with different challenges to face. I am glad that I have adapted to this lifestyle and found ways to make it more enjoyable. I hope all other students like me will be able to also do this. Thank you for reading!

Here are some of my other pieces about being gifted from previous years: https://creatingcurriculum.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/the-gifted-deserve-more/
https://creatingcurriculum.wordpress.com/2014/06/14/the-ups-and-downs-of-being-a-gifted-child/

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Image Credit: The cage of boredom image uses has had the words added by Lily, and was created by Alisha Vargas. It has a Creative Commons attribution license.

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Don’t Freak Out!

DontFreakOut

Tonight we have some more great slogans from MindPlus Rotorua. Thanks kids!

About gifted kids:

Normal kids, extraordinary minds, extended needs.

Not mad scientists, the intelligent types.

Creative, critical, caring, we are thinkers!

Creative thinking is what we do.

What gifted kids want, value and need:

We value things that make us, us.

Intellectual students always value extended learning.

We value blossoming talents and gifts.

Advice for teachers:

Talk to gifted kids about learning.

Don’t freak out! Teach them things ☺

Let them indulge in complex learning.

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Image Credit: The “Don’t freak out!” image uses the words of one of the students, and was created by Mary St George.

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Six Word Slogans

EXPANDINGSome young gifted children from MindPlus are our guest bloggers tonight, wielding words well for their age. Thanks, kids!

Advice for Teachers

Gifted kids need more advanced tasks.

Let gifted kids’ minds roam freely.

 

What gifted kids value, want or need

We need hard work for thinking.

We value respect, creativity, and collaboration.

We need creative, critical caring thinking.

MindPlus is cool for gifted kids.

 

About Gifted Kids

Caring, creative, critical kids learn here!

Gifted kids create, evaluate and analyse.

Gifted kids have expanding scholarly minds.

We think out of the box.

Gifted learners never ever give up!

 

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Image Credit: The expanding scholarly minds image uses the words of one of the students, and was created by Mary St George.

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To the true heroes and heroines of Gifted Awareness Week

Guest blogger Rosemary Cathcart is well known to the gifted education community in New Zealand. Rosemary was the founder of the One Day School, and is the director of REACH Education.

I’d like to dedicate my post for Gifted Awareness Week to parents – to the countless Mums and Dads who struggle so hard on behalf of their little ones, who so often encounter disbelief and put-downs, and who are so rarely the focus of our attention and praise.

FromRosemaryCIt’s continuously fascinating but not an easy job, being the parent of a little mind and imagination running on supercharge. There’s the endless search for knowledge (“Mummy, where does time come from?” “Um – I’ll tell you tomorrow”), the unexpected forays into scientific investigation (“But you said Santa’s reindeers stayed on the roof so I just climbed up to look for their hoof-prints”), and that biological mystery, the complete mismatch between parent and child sleeping requirements. And that’s before they even start school, let alone hit adolescence….

But it’s when parents encounter the rest of the world that life can become very hard. Other parents, neighbours, sometimes even one’s own relatives, can find your parenting experience so far outside their own that they reject it as exaggerating, boastful, wishful thinking, believing yourself or your child to be “superior” to others, and so on. Such attitudes from others are deeply undermining to parent confidence. Add to that the hurt a parent feels for their child when that happy little person at home is the one always left standing alone on the fringe of the group. Not all parents of gifted children experience this, but for those who do, it’s daunting, to say the very least.

And then along comes school. Surely, parents think, teachers will understand. They’ll welcome a child who can already read, has got maths concepts, loves to learn. There is much more likelihood today than there was even twenty years ago that that’s exactly what will happen. But we are a long way from completely winning that battle yet – that’s why we still need Gifted Awareness Week!

But here’s the point. Parents never give up.  Despite disparaging put-downs from other parents, despite the doubts raised about one’s own parenting skills, despite the hurt felt on behalf of one’s child, despite the indifference, sometimes even hostility, of some teachers, despite the lack of teacher training in this field, despite learning programmes and assessment systems which make no real provision for their children, parents never give up. Without parents, we would not have the New Zealand Association for Gifted Children and all that that body has done on behalf of this country’s gifted children. It was a parent who first brought a Minister of the Crown to One Day School, and we got the first Ministry Advisory Group as a result. It was highly articulate parents who packed an election meeting at the George Parkyn Centre, and we got a Ministerial Working Party with many positive outcomes. Individually, sometimes very alone, and collectively, parents make a difference.

So in this Gifted Awareness Week for 2015, let us celebrate the work of those unsung heroes and heroines, the parents, who continue so courageously to support their own child and then the children of others as we strive for caring, understanding and equitable provision for our gifted children.

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Guest Blogger, Hon. Chris Hipkins

I am excited to have another political blog in the 2015 #NZGAW Blog Tour so soon. This one comes from Chris Hipkins, who is Member of Parliament for Rimutaka and holder of the Education Portfolio for Labour. Thank you, Chris.Chris_Hipkins_2

In the 1930s, Labour’s first Minister of Education, and subsequent Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Peter Fraser set out a vision for education that is as relevant today as it was then:

“The government’s objective, broadly expressed, is that all persons, whatever their level of ability, whether they live in town or country, have a right as citizens to a free education of the kind for which they are best fitted and to the fullest extent of their powers.”

Fraser realised that we’re all unique, we have different talents and abilities, and we are all entitled to a quality public education that caters for that.

Too many of the contemporary debates about education presume that we’re all the same, that every child will learn the same things at the same times, and that the role of the education system is to turn out ‘standardised’ job-ready workers.

We need to take a far wider and more encompassing view of the role our education system can play than that. Education transforms lives. A great education can be the difference between a life of disadvantage and a life of happiness and prosperity.

By focussing our entire education system on ensuring that every child jumps over an arbitrary set of standards at a particular age the current government are selling our kids short.

Any child who isn’t achieving to their full potential is under achieving, and that means that gifted kids who are well ahead of the class could still be “under-achievers” if they aren’t being challenged and extended.

The Labour Party recognises the great diversity that exists within our education system. We want every child to be supported to achieve their individual and unique potential. We don’t need to spend more time constantly assessing and measuring, we know what needs to be done, let’s get on and do it.

Labour will re-establish the Gifted and Talented Advisory Board to advise on best practice and advocate on behalf of gifted kids. They will be given a ring-fenced budget for research and will be supported by a dedicated unit within the Ministry of Education.

We will also ring-fence funding for specific professional development programmes for teachers that are aimed at better supporting the needs of gifted learners, and we will restore funding for specific programmes like MindPlus.

Labour has a proven track record when it comes to supporting programmes for gifted and talented students, and we intend to pick up where we left off.

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